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Window Tint as a Basis for a Vehicle Stop

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Vehicle stops for illegal window tint often leads to illegal searches and seizures of cash

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Drug Defense Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

Many officers stop vehicles that are "passing through" PA on interstates and the turnpike because of the suspicious appearance of the vehicle's window tint.  Often times, these stops can lead to an encounter with police for seizures of cash, guns and drugs.  The police know that if an individual with out of state tags (particularly NJ or NY) has tinted windows, there may be a possible "drug dealer" inside.  It is the pre-textual nature of this stop that subjects this stop, search and seizure to a suppression motion and exclusion from evidence all the items found during the search.

The PA vehicle code provides that Windshield obstructions and wipers, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 4524, such as window tint, may not materially obstruct the driver's view out of the front windshield.  Further, the sides and rear window provides as follows:

"No person shall drive any motor vehicle with any sun screening device or other material which does not permit a person to see or view the inside of the vehicle through the windshield, side wing or side window of the vehicle."

This does not apply to factory-installed window tint or tint that complies with all applicable Federal regulations and for which a currently valid certificate of exemption for medical reasons.

We have represented many individuals charged with improper window tinting.  As noted, these cases often lead to searches and seizures based upon an odor of marijuana, plain view of drug paraphernalia or some other illegal item.   For an experienced attorney, contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today. 

1 Comment

I am not an attorney. Nothing in this post constitutes legal advice. I did however establish precedential case law by acting pro se against this charge (See Comm. v. Brubaker, 2010 Pa Super 116). If you're aware of this case and of the subsequent York County cases, then I apologize. But, if you're not aware, you may be interested to know the following:

I argued for suppression on the basis that the Officer did not have a reasonable articulable suspicion. The express verbiage of the Statute only prohibits tint that does not allow a person to see or view the inside of the vehicle. 67 Pa Code 175.67 (d)(4) prohibits tint that does not allow at least 70% light to pass through which basically means all tint is legal. As a result, most police stop vehicles because of the presence of tint rather than based on their ability to see and view the inside of the vehicle. My case clearly shows that the terms of 67 Pa Code 175.67(d)(4) cannot be used to support a conviction of 75 Pa.C.S.A. Section 4524 (e)(1). As a result of the Brubaker decision, there were subsequent challenges in York County (See Comm. v. Bradley Lee Sheely 1980 MDA 2010 & Comm. v. Timothy Edward Hansrofd, Jr. 1979 MDA 2010; Superior Court I.O.P 65.37). These were two cases where the Officer did not specifically state that he could not see inside the vehicle. The Court suppressed the evidence in both cases.

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